By Cliff Rold

Almost universally hailed as Boxing’s best weight division for the last couple of years, 147 lbs. turned in another roller coaster ride in 2008.  Blood and guts, upsets and revenges (see Paul Williams-Carlos Quintana I & II), and big money again found a home in what is arguably Boxing’s most storied weight class.

It’s hard to imagine a time when Welterweight didn’t feature one of the best fighters in the world.  With men like Williams, Miguel Cotto and a still-game Shane Mosley lurking around, the number total was greater than one.  Add in young talents like an emerging Andre Berto and a validated Joshua Clottey, and the road promises to remain bumpy and entertaining in 2009.  Who knows; Manny Pacquiao might even tempt fate again at Welterweight after beating Oscar De La Hoya in class to close the season. 

In the lead car is the man whose career elevated to new levels this year.  The most consistent Welterweight of the decade may finally have proved to be the best of the same period.  What he does in the next twelve months will have a lot to do with that determination; for now, he was the man of this year.

Welterweight Fighter of the Year: Antonio Margarito

Due in part to arguments fueled by the lack of a Margarito-Floyd Mayweather bout, the rugged Mexican became something of a polarizing figure in recent years.  Some saw him as avoided, ducked, denied his opportunity to prove his place at the top of the Welterweights.  Others saw him as an exciting but ultimately ordinary fighter, a tough but technically flawed warrior who would find the peak a tough place to scale.  A narrow loss to Williams in 2007 left the skeptics with a smile.

This year, both skeptic and believer smiled together. 

How could they not?  When a blue-collar guy like Margarito takes apart a young mega-talent like Miguel Cotto for a WBA belt, it merits all the respect it gets.  Margarito didn’t out box Cotto but he out toughed him and, eventually, overpowered him.  Add in a repeat drubbing of Kermit Cintron earlier in the year for the IBF belt (later vacated), one of the year’s most surprising economic hits on pay-per-view and a looming showdown with Mosley and Margarito now has  a career with the signature moments worthy of all the rhetoric spilled.  Ring Magazine has elected not to anoint the Margarito-Mosley winner ‘champion,’ a sign that sometimes rules get in the way of logic.  If Mosley wins, let the arguments reign.  If Margarito wins, with Williams out of the division and wins already gathered against Cotto and Clottey, he is THE Welterweight king.  2009 will be a pivotal year for the ‘Tijuana Tornado.’

Welterweight Fight of the Year: Antonio Margarito-Miguel Cotto

As reported by Jake Donovan at: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=15131

Blood and violence was promised for months on end. The fight took all of a minute to deliver on the violence front, with the blood soon to follow.  Both fighters started off with the jab, but it was Cotto who landed the first significant combination of the fight, a flurry on the inside.

Margarito came back with an uppercut, but as showing Cotto respect, leading to his being thoroughly outworked over the course of the round. The final minute of the round ignited the crowd, though dominated by Cotto's crisper punches landing up the middle while Margarito was just a little too wide and slow in return.

Cotto picked up in the second exactly where he left off one minute prior – coming straight up the middle while easily getting out of harm's way when Margarito attempted to counter. That dynamic changed about a minute into the round, when Cotto got caught with a right hand that left him momentarily pinned along the ropes. Margarito took his attack downstairs, but caught several left hooks upstairs for his troubles. Blood began flowing from Cotto's nose, but didn't deter the Puerto Rican from ending the round with a shot upstairs. 

Mobility was the key for Cotto in the third round, effectively mixing boxing and brawling while attempting to minimize the blood flow from his nose and a small nick over his left eye. Margarito kept targeting the body, but drew two separate warnings for low blows in the span of less than a minute.

Margarito closed the gap enough in the fourth to enjoy perhaps his best round of the fight to that point. A right uppercut for the Mexican slowed down Cotto, though steadily returning fire. Margarito went back to the body, but Cotto was able to re-establish enough distance to counter his way down the stretch, even if not enough to steal the round.

A boxing match threatened to break out in the fifth, though that didn't last very long. Cotto offered plenty of side to side movement which frustrated Margarito until a right hand about a minute into the round. Cotto stayed on the move, standing and trading on occasion, but only in landing a flurry before immediately getting out of harm's way. Margarito landed a straight right that had Cotto temporarily unsteady at the ten-second ticker, but the Puerto Rican went into Pernell Whitaker mode, slipping all of the ensuing shots until the final bell.

Margarito wasn't landing a lot, but remained the busier fighter in riding momentum into the sixth round. 

A left hook to the body had Cotto on the defensive early in the seventh, but was able to flurry his way out of danger. A right hand upstairs stopped Margarito in his tracks, but the Mexican refused to wilt, coming back with fire power of his own, forcing Cotto to clinch. His face now a mask of blood, Cotto was forced to fight back, which only gave Margarito more confidence as the round – and fight – wore on. Margarito had Cotto under siege for much of the round, unloading to the tune of 130 punches in the three-minute frame according to Compubox.

Cotto was urged by his corner in between rounds to stay off the ropes. He obliged, offering lateral movement though paying the price in not gaining as much leverage on his punches. The plan worked for about 2:30 of the round, before Margarito was able to pin him in the corner down the stretch. A right hand by Cotto enabled him to escape harm's way, moving backwards as the eighth came to a close.

It was more of the same in the ninth, with Cotto flipping back and forth between southpaw and conventional stance while fighting in reverse. Margarito kept charging forward, hoping to come through with the shot that would keep his foe stationary. Those moments came in the second half of the round, though Cotto would counter enough to avoid a firefight. 

The bout had to eventually slow down; that moment finally came in the tenth. The same pattern applied as in the previous two rounds, Margarito charging forward, Cotto staying mobile seeking counter opportunities to maintain space between the two. Margarito immediately closed the gap in the last fifteen seconds, landing a left hook, left uppercut and right hand that trapped Cotto on the ropes, leaving him open for an ensuing volley.

Trainer Evangelista Cotto told his nephew he needed to win the final two rounds to pull out the fight. Not only would that not happen, but Cotto wouldn't even last long enough to hear instructions for another round.

A left uppercut by Margarito midway through the round had Cotto stuck in the mud, left defenseless as he took a right uppercut and two right hands that sent him to the canvas. Margarito got in one last lick while Cotto was on a knee, but drew no warning from referee Kenny Bayless who issued a mandatory eight count.

Cotto got up but was all but done. Such became evident moments later, when Cotto once again went down, despite Margarito not landing another punch. Bayless moved in to count, but would never reach eight – Cotto was done for the night, confirmed by his uncle/trainer, who climbed on to the ring apron, white towel in tow.

The official time was 2:05 of round eleven.

It was brutal, and lived up to everyone's exceedingly high expectations. And according to Margarito, the fight went exactly as planned.

"It was all in my game plan, to start to press which I did around the sixth round," said Margarito, who improves to 37-5 (27KO) with what is easily the biggest win of his 14-year career. "I was able to catch him (to the body), then some uppercuts and saw that he was slowing down."

Not only was Cotto slowing down, but Margarito was pulling ahead. Final scorecards had the Mexican ahead on two of the three scorecards (each reading 96-94) and even on the third (95-95). But a decision win was the furthest thing from Margarito's mind at that point.

"Slowly the tornado rumbled, I knew the knockout would come, and it came."

Welterweight: The Year in Results

Since last January, BoxingScene has produced quarterly ratings for each of Boxing’s seventeen weight classes.  Ratings for the first quarter of 2009 should be available at the New Year; for now, here’s a look back at the critical Welterweight results of 2008.

First Quarter

01/19: #6 Luis Collazo (28-3, 13 KO) UD10 Edvan Barros (9-5-1, 7 KO)

02/09: Carlos Quintana (25-1, 19 KO, WBO) UD12 #2 Paul Williams (33-1, 24 KO)

02/09: #8 Andre Berto (21-0, 18 KO) TKO6 Michael Trabant (43-3-1, 19 KO)

Second Quarter

04/03: #9 Joshua Clottey (34-2, 19 KO) TKO5 Jose Luis Cruz (36-4-2, 29 KO)

04/12: #1 Miguel Cotto (32-0, 26 KO, WBA) RTD5 Alfonso Gomez (18-4-2, 8 KO)

04/12: #3 Antonio Margarito (36-5, 26 KO, IBF) KO6 #5 Kermit Cintron (29-2, 27 KO)

06/07: #6 Paul Williams (34-1, 25 KO, WBO) TKO1 #2 Carlos Quintana (25-2, 19 KO)

06/21: #7 Andre Berto (22-0, 19 KO) TKO7 Miguel Rodriguez (29-3, 23 KO)

 

Third Quarter

07/26: #2 Antonio Margarito (37-5, 27 KO, WBA) TKO11 #1 Miguel Cotto (32-1, 26 KO)

08/02: #6 Joshua Clottey (35-2, 20 KO, IBF) TD9 #8 Zab Judah (36-6, 25 KO)

09/14: Rafael Jackiewicz (32-8-1, 18 KO) UD12 #10 Jackson Bonsu (28-2, 23 KO)

09/27: #4 Shane Mosley (45-5, 38 KO) KO12 Ricardo Mayorga (29-7-1, 23 KO)

09/27: #5 Andre Berto (23-0, 19 KO, WBC) UD12 Steve Forbes (33-7, 9 KO)

Fourth Quarter

11/08: #9 Zab Judah (37-6, 25 KO) UD10 Ernest Johnson (18-3-1, 7 KO)

11/15: #8 Kermit Cintron (30-2, 27 KO) UD12 Lovemore N’Dou (46-11-1, 31 KO)

11/17: #10 Issac Hlatswayo (28-1-1, 10 KO) D12 Delvin Rodriguez (23-2-2, 14 KO)

12/6: #1 at 135 Manny Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KO, WBC) TKO8 #5 at 154 Oscar De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KO)

Other divisions in 2008 reviewed:

Heavyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17599

Cruiserweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17478

Light Heavyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17628

Super Middleweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17595 

Middleweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17553

Jr. Middleweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17653

Jr. Welterweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17647

Lightweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17496

Jr. Lightweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17637 

Featherweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17536

Jr. Featherweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17610

Jr. Bantamweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17572

Jr. Flyweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/index.php?m=show&id=17514

Strawweight: https://www.boxingscene.com/?m=show&id=17619

Check in tomorrow for more of BoxingScene’s 2008 Year in Review.

Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America.  He can be reached at roldboxing@hotmail.com